Well, here I am in Berlin two weeks before the IES Program officially begins with nothing much to do! I’m sitting in the Mitte’s Backpacker Youth Hostel hammering out this entry before I pay to connect to the internet and post it. Everything I write here is the truth and happened, unless I say it isn’t and didn’t in which case you should believe the latter, okay? Why would I pay 3 Euros an hour to lie to you?
I arrived two days ago (truth!) and did a little exploring of the Mitte (Middle) area of Berlin, which is just up the street from here. Pictures and video will come soon! I did not see any Nazis (truth!), but I did see some Nazi-esque banners with silhouettes of Pretzels on them. I once heard the swastika is illegal here; I wonder if that’s true? For the curious among you, the banners were an advertisement for a performance of The Producers.
I ventured a little farther afield on the tourist track yesterday. I figure I’ve got to see these things at least once! First it was Brandenburg Gate and then the Bundestag, which has been the seat of the German government since 1999. I mention the date because I just learned it today, and I was struck by how recently it occurred. Then again, it is only (almost) the 20th anniversary of Germany’s reunification (truth!), and Germany was separated for over thirty years. Perspective!
On that topic, Germans, Berliners especially, are still very conscious of reunification. Every map of Berlin I have seen, for instance, including the English one I bought at home, has a red line indicating the former location of the Berlin Wall. From this I know my hostel is in what was once East Berlin, and so is the so-called Mitte.
Berlin is a sprawl. There are multiple city centers connected by an excellent mass-transportation system. The Mitte is one of these, and Potsdamer Platz is another. That’s where I ended up after gawking at the Rathaus for a while. I wandered through the Tiergarten, Berlin’s enormous central park, which was very beautiful even in the desolation of winter. I have pictures, so I’ll spare you the poetry. :)
Guided by an enormous, spinning Mercedes Star atop a distant skyscraper (imagery!), I reached the Sony Center, which occupies its own block cornering the Potsdamer Platz. It is a really interesting structure that forms a high courtyard topped with a twisted tarp-like thing. My guidebook told me that I could get free Wifi there, but no dice (found the network, but wouldn’t connect).
After considering a nearby memorial to the Berlin Wall, I wandered into the train station and discovered that it was connected to an underground shopping mall. H&M had two outlets, one was entirely women’s underwear (fal- nope, sadly true). I fairly lol’d at that, to use the parlance of our times. I also laughed out loud when I saw a “Bob der Baumeister” (Bob the Builder) poster, too. Forgive me, but I think ‘Baumeister’ is a really funny word.
After wandering around the mall for a while, I paid 5 Euros to pee (false! I only paid 10 cents). No, it wasn’t mandatory, but everyone else was putting change on the plate. And when everyone else is putting change on the plate, what can one do?
Well, that’s it! Thanks for reading the first dispatch from Berlin. You’ll hear from me again soon.
Hey, also drop me a comment! Was this post too long? Too short? Too detailed? Too vague? Less talk, and more pictures of cute animals? Anything! What do you want to hear about? This blog may be all about me, but I’m writing it for you!